Publisher: Black Opal Books (2013)
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Bev Irwin immediately introduces her serial killer in Without Consent by having him carve out the kidney of a conscious woman. Irwin deftly interlaces Doctor Claire Valincourt, Detective Gerry Rosko, the numerous victims, and the killer himself in this descriptive medical-thriller.

Dr. Claire Valincourt’s world changes after she finds the first body of a spree of killings, and she struggles to face death and horror outside of the sanitized environment of hospitals. Heading up the investigation is Detective Rosko, the surprisingly clement police officer who sparks with Valincourt from the moment they first shake hands. Their growing relationship is dogged by death and danger.

Irwin presents a wide cast of memorable characters in Without Consent. From a charismatic sketch artist, to reporters that just don’t know when to quit, Irwin organizes the plot so that not a strand is out of place, and most everything dovetails. The terror of Rosko and Doctor Valincourt surrounded by suspects, one of whom is a brutal murderer, gives their lives a level of tension that could be cut with a scalpel.

Suspense devotees will appreciate the details revealed about the killer’s inner workings. The foreshadowing at the beginning also points to Rosko and Valincourt being thrown together, and with each missing kidney, their romance blossoms against recent personal wounds and professional instinct. The effect could be considered comical if it was not for the constant threat of a brutal death looming over their shoulders.

The story takes on even more of a sense of urgency as Rosko realizes the athletic brunettes who are piling up, sans one kidney, look suspiciously like Valincourt. The murders begin to be personal and move closer to home as they slide into the social circle of both characters. They fight and scrape to stay alive while closing in on the killer.

Without Consent’s strengths are highlighted in its multifaceted characters. Valincourt, despite severe trauma in her past, rarely is a damsel in distress, and Rosko isn’t just a stereotypical detective, but has a gentle side and a solid presence that serves as a sea of calm in all the chaos.

The journey into the killer’s mind always leaves the reader feeling unclean. Each point of progression fits logically when presented by a deranged, methodical man. Occasionally, the extra knowledge held by the reader sends shivers down the spine as the police cannot manage to see or prevent disaster before it happens.

With each kidney the killer takes, he becomes more confident and certain that his path is the right one, while Rosko and Valincourt become more determined to discover any information on how to stop him.

Despite some heavy foreshadowing, Without Consent will have you reading to the end. And, as in this case, knowing increases the pleasure of each tiny reveal that is carved out with Irwin’s razor sharp writing…like finding the perfect kidney at the end of a long day.